China made aircraft, a headache for Nepal airlines

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In November 2012, Nepal Airlines signed a commercial agreement with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a Chinese government undertaking, to procure six aircraft—two 56-seater MA60s and four 17-seater Y12es.

As part of the deal, China provided grant and concessional loan assistance worth 408 million Chinese yuan to purchase the six aircraft.

Out of the total aid money, a grant worth 180 million yuan went to pay for one MA60 and one Y12e aircraft; and a loan worth 228 million yuan was used to purchase one MA60 and three Y12e aircraft.

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In July 2020, the airline’s management announced that it would ground all Chinese-made airplanes.

The delivery of the rest of the Chinese aircraft was stalled for years after issues appeared in the first batch of planes that arrived in 2014.

These issues included lack of pilots, lack of instructor pilots, lack of spare parts and lack of engineers trained to maintain them.

Except for operating services to a few airports in the Tarai plains, these aircraft spent more time on the ground than in the air, and they were becoming a financial stress to the debt-ridden national flag carrier.

Besides maintenance issues and lack of spare parts, Nepal Airlines couldn’t find pilots to fly the aircraft, and there was no sense in keeping them anymore.

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The Chinese planes have been grounded for more than two years.

The Finance Ministry is the owner of the planes and Nepal Airlines is the operator. The ministry gave the green signal to Nepal Airlines to lease out or sell the planes in March 2021.

All these five turboprops are in storage at Kathmandu airport and are available for inspection on an “as is, where is” basis, according to the notice published by Nepal Airlines on its website.

Only airlines with a valid air operator’s certificate and at least one aircraft in their in-house fleet are eligible to bid.

With inputs from The Nation.